Although I spent most of my time in Thailand just eating whatever I felt like and could get my hands on, I did also take a quick gander at the Michelin Guide to see what eats they recommended. And whilst I had no intention of paying through the nose for high-end meals – that’s not what a holiday to Thailand is about in my opinion! – I did take a good look through what local eats they’ve highlighted as the best of the best. I ended up with a pretty hefty list, and whilst I didn’t manage to get through everything, I did try enough to cobble together this little series of mini-reviews. And so without further ado, here we are!
Nai Ek Roll Noodles
442 Soi 9, Yaowarat Road
Samphanthawong, Bangkok 10100
The first place we hit up was Nai Ek Roll Noodles, an institution in Chinatown that promises the best roll noodles (go figure) around. The space is small and the queue intimidating, but don’t let that deter you – things move fast here, though it’s definitely better to come for lunch if you don’t want to wait too long. They’re not shy about cramming several strangers onto one tiny table, so we had a spot within 5 or so minutes of arriving.
The signature dish is the Roll Noodle Soup (50 baht, small). What makes these different from regular noodles is their shape. Instead of being long and skinny, these are small sheets of slippery, chewy rice noodles coiled up into rolls – perfect for storing soup in the crevices. And speaking of soup, this was really something. Despite being so heavily seasoned that you can see white pepper floating in clouds, it nevertheless worked surprisingly well, its rasping heat a great accompaniment to the clean umami flavour of the broth.
The Pork Entrail Soup (50 baht, small) also came highly recommended. This was similar to the noodles, except instead of carbs, you get extra bits and bobs of organs in your soup, as well as some more greens. You can eat around the offal in the noodles if you’d prefer, and just stick with the chunks of excellent roast pork belly, but this is for serious offal aficionados only. There’s everything from liver to kidney to intestines, as well as cuts I can’t even recognise.
And just to pad out the meal a bit, a bowl of Pork Spare Ribs with Day Lily (50 baht). This was beautifully clean and light, the light pork-based broth infused with the slightly herbal aroma of the day lily. The ribs themselves were unbelievably tender, and that’s coming from someone who grew up with mum regularly and painstakingly making spare rib stew over 8 hours. This is nourishing and restorative – a perfect elixir for when you’re feeling under the weather.
Ek Nai was a good start to my Michelin-recommended restaurant journey. The food may be simple, home-made stuff, but sometimes the best food is. I was really impressed with the quality of the place; despite being a hole-in-the-wall that’s barely more than a street-side stall with a roof over its head, all the ingredients were top notch, and the quality of the soups indicating long hours spent coaxing the flavours and goodness out of them. Definitely worth a visit.
1391 Charoen Krung Rd, Silom
Bang Rak, Bangkok 10500
I had the joy of staying at a hotel with an excellent breakfast buffet for the entirety of my holiday, and over that time, I became rather fond of the jok – rice porridge – they had on offer. However, I wouldn’t be very happy with myself if I left the country only having had the version from the buffet, so one night, we headed off to Jok Prince to find out just how good rice porridge can get.
Just like at Ek Nai, we were seated very quickly, sharing our table with another diner. But despite the apparent simplicity of jok, it actually took us a very long time to be served. There were so many people ordering takeaway from the little window in the laneway that it took almost 20 minutes for our order to arrive, by which point we were ravenous, and ready to dig in.
Being a huge fan of century egg, the Pork with Organ and Preserved Egg Congee (60 baht) was an easy choice. This was excellent indeed, the porridge cooked down until thick and silky, the base gently flavoured with pork stock, ready to be seasoned to your liking. Hidden beneath the surface is an entire century egg, cut into quarters and seductively creamy. The meatballs were also satisfyingly chunky, and for the adventurous, there’s also plenty of offal floating around.
For those who prefer their eggs unpreserved, there’s also the Pork With Organ and Egg Congee (50 baht), which had a beautifully golden yolk cracked into the hot porridge in lieu of the quartered century egg, adding a wonderful richness to each spoonful.
The jok at my breakfast buffet may have been good enough to eat every day, but the jok here is definitely a level above anything else I’ve ever had. Once again, the flavour tasted of long hours of simmering and stirring, with a comfortingly rib-hugging texture. Despite being traditionally a breakfast food, this is good for any time of the day.
Go-Ang Kaomunkai Pratunam
960-962 Phetchaburi Rd, Makkasan
Ratchathewi, Bangkok 10400
I had a lot of shopping to do that day, so before I tackled the gargantuan Platinum Mall, I decided to fuel up at Go-Ang Kaomunkai Pratunam…. all in the name of getting more shopping done!
Go-Ang is known for doing some of the best chicken rice around. They’ve been at it for over 50 years, and the queues of both locals and tourists show just how popular they are. Like all the other places I’ve been to though, the turnover is fast and they’re happy to stick several groups on to one table, so you won’t be waiting for long.
After ordering, the first thing that arrives is a bowl of chicken soup – light, peppery, and umami – and a dish of garlic chilli sauce for dipping. Following quickly on its heels was the Hainanese Chicken (60 baht, small) and two bowls of Chicken Rice (10 baht). I admit I wasn’t as blown away by this as I had hoped to be. The chicken was on the dry and bland side, though it was definitely improved by the dipping sauce. The rice on the other hand was excellent; each grain was fluffy and light, and infused with the fragrance of chicken stock, with just enough oil to make it incredibly moreish.
Aside from chicken, I also wanted to try the Braised Pork (60 baht, small). This ranked somewhere between the chicken and the rice. The meat braised in five-spice was reasonably tasty and passably tender, but it was pretty unremarkable all-up, and really quite unmemorable.
Maybe we’re just spoilt for good food in Australia, but I left feeling rather unimpressed by Go-Ang. Aside from the rice, there was nothing here that I would say is any better than average. Give it a try if you’re in the area, but I definitely wouldn’t recommend travelling for this.
Charoen Saeng Silom
492/6 Soi Charoen Krung 49, Suriya Wong
Bang Rak, Bangkok 10500
I was rather impressed with my own dedication when I voluntarily decided to get up early, forego our excellent breakfast buffet, and instead walk 20 minutes down the road to have breakfast at Charoen Saeng Silom.
Charoen Saeng Silom specialises in stewed pork knuckle, and whilst that may not sound like your typical breakfast food, it didn’t stop me (or plenty of others) from showing up first thing in the morning for some meaty goodness. The vats were in full swing at 9am, the staff chopping, stewing, and ladling enthusiastically by the side of the road, filling orders as fast as they can.
Between the two of us, we decided to share one Pork Knuckle (140 baht), accompanied by a couple of bowls of Rice (5 baht/person). One bite and it’s clear why this place is so popular. The meat is so tender it slips right off the bone, and the skin is sticky and gelatinous, but without a hint of oiliness. It’s plenty flavoursome on its own, but it’s especially good with a bit of the garlic chilli sauce, which is kept in a large tureen on the table for you to ladle out as needed.
As far as pork knuckles go, this was pretty great. It was well cooked and full of flavour, and very, very tender indeed. Whether it’s the absolute best is probably a matter of personal taste, but it definitely is one of the best around.
Nai Ouan Tentafo Bateng Sao Chingcha
41 Soi Nawa, Sao Chingcha
Phra Nakhon, Bangkok 10200
The final Michelin-recommended restaurant I managed to visit was Nai Ouan Yentafo Bateng Sao Chingcha, an institution specialising in pink noodle soup and home-made fish balls.
This is definitely the nicest restaurant on the entire list. Whereas every other place is no more than a hole-in-the-wall with tables crammed every which way, Nai Ouan actually has matching furniture, and even some basic decor!
I chose to have the signature Noodle with Yentafo Sauce (60 baht, small) with wide rice noodles, served a little less spicy than normal. Admittedly, I wasn’t sure what the fuss was here. The dish was pleasant enough, the soup tasting reminiscent of sweet and sour dishes, with just a hint of chilli. The house-made fish balls were nothing to write home about either, though they did have a bouncier texture than the mass-produced variant. My favourite topping was the fried dough ball, which frankly I should have done as the next table did and order an entire bowl.
Another popular dish is the Noodle with Thai Fish Ball (60 baht, small), which I thought would go best with the egg noodles. This was, if anything, even less impressive than the pink noodles. This was downright bland, and really needed to be supplemented by the condiments available on each table. However, this is a great choice if you’re trying to steer away from offal, as everything in the bowl was very familiar, with no blood jelly in sight.
And so, this was a rather underwhelming finish to my journey of Michelin-recommended eats. I had also planned to try out a popular mango sticky rice place, but unfortunately they were closed for the day, so I had to settle for a huge cup of Thai milk tea from the 7-11. Although there’s been a few places that were definitely worth a visit, on the whole, I didn’t find myself to be as impressed as I had expected. Frankly, I think we’re just much too spoilt for food in Australia. But then again, you show me a place in Australia where you can get a bowl of noodles for $2, or a whole pork knuckle for $7.